Sunday, March 12, 2017

Life Lately Round 7

I know I have posted a few times lately, but mostly just about our recent trips -- not too much about what we have been up to as of late so here it goes:

We returned from Paris with our friends in tow and had a wonderful weekend showing them our town and beach -- we even got away for an adult only dinner after the kids were in bed!  Then our friends moved on to more travels and my parents arrived that afternoon... Well, actually my mom arrived that day.  Turns out you cannot travel with a passport that expires within three months of your travel dates, but luck was on our side and my dad arrived the next day.

[Just a side note -- my parents knew my dad's passport was expiring and they called the number on the passport website -- my dad was told it was perfectly fine for him to travel.  When they arrived at the airport to check in, the airlines would not let him check in because TSA requires your passport to not expire within three months of your return date.  The airlines was amazing and booked him on a flight the next day, he was able to get a passport from the passport agency in Seattle and all was well.  And since all this happened -- I have heard your passport needs to be within six months of expiring and it can't be "too new" for many countries -- ugh!  So just be very aware of your passport expiration dates, when you are traveling and the various laws about how old your passport has to be.]

We hung out in Rota with my parents for a few days and then Trevor and I were able to sneak away for our first ever over night away from Serafina -- two whole nights away!  We went to Granada for two nights and it was wonderful!  We had already seen the Alhambra so really we just walked around and ate (hence no separate travel post).  We loved Granada but if you aren't seeing the Alhambra, it really only needs one night (unless you plan on skiing or doing something in the mountains) -- see Ferdinand and Isabella's graves and walk up into the Albayzin neighborhood for gorgeous views of the Alhambra.  I have heard that there is a wonderful science museum if you are traveling with kids.

And then sadly we came home to a very (VERY) sick Peanut.  She got Hand, Foot and Mouth (HFM) disease while we were away -- it started out very mild on our second night away and by the time we returned home the next morning she was flat out miserable.  She had such an awful case -- blisters EVERYWHERE (hundreds of them).  So needless to say, we had a few pretty rough days and we were oh so thankful my parents were there to help.  And poor girl was sick on her birthday but we at least made cupcakes!

She finally recovered (aka was no longer contagious but was still peeling + getting new skin from all the blisters) and she started Spanish daycare/nursery school.  I'll eventually do a post about our new school once I figure out the whole process -- because currently I have no idea what is happening 90% of the time!  But she comes home happy and is understanding and speaking more Spanish each day, so it works.  Plus I love that I get pictures of their daily activities and she wears a uniform, it doesn't get much better than that :)  And then.... she got HFM again.  Yep, because it is a virus you can get this awful nastiness more than once.  Luckily this time around was much more mild and hopefully we are on a healthy track moving forward!

celebrating Dia de Andalucia

We also did some Carnaval celebrations -- we missed the bigger events because of round two HFM but we at least were able to celebrate about two weekends ago with some friends -- heading to a neighboring town for their parade.  It was small but fun -- Serafina was deathly afraid of the Paw Patrol characters but loved all the confetti being thrown!  And no -- I do not know why Carnaval events take place after Mardi Gras/Ash Wednesday but oh well, we enjoyed celebrating all week!  And yes, everyone dresses up (this is like Spain's version of Halloween expect it lasts a week).  Trevor and I went to our first military ball and it was SO.MUCH.FUN -- it is basically an adult prom!  And Serafina did great with our amazing babysitter; this was the first time she'd had one while she was awake and it wasn't my parents!

Trevor and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary -- we were able to have our good friend watch the Peanut while we went out to dinner!  We give each other traditional wedding gifts and this year the traditional gift is wood, so we will be getting a table built for us while we are here in Spain!  And we took our annual family picture on our anniversary -- in the swimming pool locker room #reallife

We have no immediate travel plans -- we did a lot of traveling last year since Peanut was under 2 and we didn't have to pay for her plane ticket!  We had a busy January and February, so we are looking forward to just hanging out here and maybe taking a day trip or two -- and finally catching up on some long overdue tasks around the house!

Some other pictures of my baby all grown up --

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Longer Travels {Paris}

In January we took a week (well, 5 nights) trip to Paris and it was amazing!  We met some good friends of ours from the states and had a great time -- plus Serafina and their toddler son had a blast playing and exploring the city together!

I should note that Paris is my all time favorite city.  I have been numerous times and studied in Paris both in high school (for a summer) and in college (study abroad program).  I have seen much of the city, know my way around fairly well and speak enough French to get by.  Although I did try and speak Spanish quite a bit the first 24 hours -- but eventually it all came flooding back!  So with that said, I knew this trip would be different with a toddler, yet it was still just as amazing....

Since we did most of the major sights,  I figured I'd break them down in terms of having a toddler with you.  But first, we did get a Paris Museum Pass which I highly recommend if you plan on seeing the major museums.  It allows you to just go through the security line* and not stand in line for tickets as well.  And second, we used the metro numerous times with ease -- it helped that both Serafina and her friend were absolutely in love with riding and seeing the "trains."  But we used our city mini stroller which was pretty easy to collapse and carry on the metro (one person had the Peanut and the other had the stroller).  Unless you plan on using the metro a whole bunch, buy a carnet (book of 10 tickets) which easily got us through the whole time we were in Paris.  And finally, we flew in and out of Beauvais which is about an hour and a half outside of the city.  While a little tricky to get to, it was the best option for us with ticket prices and flight times.  We used the shuttle bus which was very easy (just hurry a little to the shuttle when you land in Beauvais and buy your tickets a head of time online).

So here you go -- touring the major sights in Paris with a toddler!

Louvre Museum
A ginormous museum famous for housing the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory and many more well-known works of art -- this museum is not to be missed but can also be a little overwhelming.  We made it a point to arrive right at opening time which helped -- we actually were able to see the Mona Lisa with very little people (usually it is jam packed).  So, getting to the Louvre -- since we were staying close it made more sense to walk but then that required us to go through the main entrance which was a little tricky with the strollers (had to wait for a person operated elevator); the easiest way is coming in from under the Louvre on the metro.  Once in the Louvre, I recommend checking your stroller -- especially if you don't need your toddler to nap in the stroller.  The Louvre is a very old building and while they have made it stroller/wheelchair accessible, I wouldn't call it friendly.  We had trouble locating elevators and there are a lot of stairs and a lot of rooms.  Just easier without the stroller.  In terms of what to see, there is so so much but my personal favorite area is on the third floor (for Americans) where there are Monet paintings (also very few people venture up here so it is a decent place to let the toddler run around).
we got yelled at for this picture, but so worth it

Notre Dame
The famous church of Paris and a must see!  Both inside and out are simply gorgeous (in my opinion) and not to be missed.  Churches can be a little tricky with a toddler as most expect those visiting to be quiet.  However, we have found that most people are very understanding of toddlers and accept their not so quite ways.  Churches are usually a good place for toddlers to walk around since many of the artifacts are not anywhere near toddler height making it a lot safer than some places (like museums that seem to put so many things at the perfect toddler grabbing height).  And the outside is a great place for toddlers to run around (and play with the pigeons).

Sainte Chapelle
My all time most favorite church in the entire world (that I have seen).  Anytime I go to Paris, I go see this church because I think it is just breathtaking.  Sainte Chapelle is located on the same island as Notre Dame so it is very easy to do these two churches together -- and lines can be very long at Sainte Chapelle, so be aware.  The church is very small and you will be required to leave your stroller on the ground floor as you walk up the two story spiral staircase to the upper part of church.  The ground floor is very unassuming but the second floor is almost floor to ceiling stained glass.  Serafina loved it and kept saying "so pretty" over and over again.  And would push people out of the way saying "oops, sorry, careful" to get a better view of the stained glass.  (Note: this church is also in the same compound as the Conciergerie which is a pretty cool museum about the old prison in Paris).

this pretty much sums up our toddler in Sainte Chapelle --
she was in love with all the "so pretty windows" and wouldn't stop moving

Musée d'Orsay
One of my personal favorite museums in Paris (and also in the world) -- this museum has all the famous French painters, including many Impressionist works (which I love).  This museum is much smaller than the Louvre but still quite large with lots of ground to cover.  Again, check your stroller!  This museum has so many stairs with minimal elevators.  The main floor is a great place for a toddler to wander and run while the other parent goes into the rooms off of the main floor.

Eiffel Tower
So we actually ended up in Paris when the top portion of the tower was closed so we opted not to go up (since we didn't want to only go to the second floor).  And sadly, it was freezing outside when we decided to go try for a photo opt -- and you can no longer walk under the tower which made it difficult to easily get to the end of the Champs des Mars for a good photo.  Since we didn't go up the tower, I can't tell you how toddler friendly it is, but I can tell you that strollers are not allowed whatsoever and there is no place to store your stroller, so don't bring it.

L'Orangerie Museum
This was actually my first time in this small museum and it was so (SO) cool.  First, it is known for the MASSIVE Monet water lily paintings, but also houses many other works of art by famous French artists.  The Renoir exhibit was closed when we went which was a bummer, but we happened to be there for the special American depression era art exhibit -- the famous painting American Gothic was on display for the first time outside of the states.  This was also where Serafina found her favorite work of art -- this one which she ran up to and yelled "SHEENA -- IT'S SHEENA" (she calls herself Sheena, so essentially she thought the little girl in the painting was her).  This museum required us to check our stroller and everything else we had -- coats, backpack, everything.  It worked out great because it is such a small museum, we were in and out probably in about 30 minutes, but did take us by surprise at first.     

Not to be confused with the Pantheon in Rome....  This is also a church (or was, now it is a secular mausoleum and houses the remains of many famous French citizens -- such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas and more) and is also the home of the Foucault Pendulum.  This pendulum was created in 1851 to show the earth's rotation and is actually pretty cool to see.  This was my first time in the Panthéon even though I walked past it everyday in college on my way to school, so I was pretty excited to go inside.  And sadly, while worthwhile to go inside, this was the only time we had trouble traveling with a toddler.  In every single museum, church, place, etc. we have been in -- Serafina has eaten a snack and until our visit to the Panthéon no one (worker or otherwise) has said anything.  One worker was not too happy that Serafina was in her stroller eating a snack and made us pry it from her hands and she screamed her little head off which of course echoed in the huge area.  Not fun and we quickly left -- and the reason for no pictures.  So just be forewarned if you go with a kid!

Montmartre/Sacre Coeur
Sacre Coeur is the gorgeous white church on the hill above Paris.  It is known for its many many steps and amazing views of the city below.  Montmartre is the surrounding area known for its funky shops and an artists paradise -- while now very touristy, it is still very fun to wander the streets.  The trickiest part about this area is simply getting there; it is a longer metro ride (we lucked out and happened to be staying on the same line, so we didn't have to change trains) and then a hike up the hill plus lots of steps -- or you can skip some steps with the funicular (a separate metro ticket).  The metro ride and funicular went very well since both toddlers were totally obsessed with riding trains.  I had actually never been inside Sacre Coeur so it was fun to go inside, however I would say going inside could be skipped (definitely don't skip the outside and views).

Les Invalides
Les Invalides is where Napoleon is buried (under the large golden dome) and it is also where the Army Museum is located -- it is a pretty large compound/area/place...  While it seems like this would not be a cool thing to go and see, it is actually pretty awesome.  Napoleon's tomb is pretty much the definition of a Napoleon complex which is a little hilarious (others from Napoleon's family as well as other French military heroes are buried here too).  This place is quite toddler friendly and our toddlers just ran around the big circle while the adults looked around.  We tried to get to the Army Museum, but actually ended up in a special exhibit about the French Resistance of WWII which was very cool (and became one big playground for the toddlers).  The Army Museum is definitely worth a visit, but sadly the toddlers were done and needed food so, toddlers won on that round. (Also no pictures since the toddlers were too active to even get a picture!)

There are many, many parks throughout Paris which are always a good place to let your toddler run wild.  We went to Luxembourg Gardens which is one of my favorites (but also very touristy).  Sadly, it was so cold while we were in Paris that we really didn't spend too much time outside if we could help it (remember our Germany trip and how much our child hates the cold).  There are also many child friendly museums, but many of these (both larger parks and museums) are more on the outskirts of Paris and a trek to get to -- so hopefully those places will be on our next trip to Paris (because I can't live in Europe and only go once)!

Overall, despite our Peanut not sleeping (per the usual on our trips), we had a wonderful time.  Paris was every bit as magical as I have remembered.  I had way too much fun speaking French, walking around my old neighborhood and also seeing Serafina enjoy my favorite city.  And we were all pleasantly surprised at how extremely nice and helpful everyone was -- it was so against the stereotype that most people think of when they think of Parisians.  Many of the people in the museums (tourists and workers) praised us for traveling with our toddler and also loved watching them experience everything!

*Paris (and France) have sadly experienced numerous terrorist attacks in the past years.  Every tourist sight or museum had intense security with many armed soldiers around.  You can also no longer walk underneath the Eiffel Tower unless you have tickets.  While it took a little while to get used to all the armed soldiers around, they were also so very nice and it never ruined the experience of being in Paris.

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